Warplanes: October 24, 2001


The Air Force is looking into the idea of building a larger version of the Global Hawk strategic recon drone. The Global Hawk Block 20 would have more range and 50% more payload (3,000 pounds rather than 2000). It would have a 150-foot wingspan (compared to the 116 feet of the current Block-5/10 and its fuselage would grow from the current 44 feet long to 52 feet. The aircraft might use two engines, providing more reliability. The Block 20 aircraft would use the new open architecture concept to allow faster changing of components and sensors. The communications system would be enhanced, allowing faster data transfer. The only drawback is that the Air Force is just moving from the Block 5 to the Block 10 version of Global Hawk, and diverting the key engineers into the Block 20 project might slow down the badly needed Block 10. Lockheed Martin continues to try to sell the Air Force an unmanned version of the U-2. The Air Force isn't interested but some members of Congress are.--Stephen V Cole


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